Archive | June, 2018

Medical Matters

20 Jun

No one likes to go to see the doctor, do they? Unfortunately, in the past few months our household has been a regular visitor to doctors and medical professionals.

First of all, I had a accident when I was running which was causing me pain at the back of my knee. The knee would be aching for days after any form of exercise and would hurt when I was going upstairs or bending my knee in any shape or form.

I went to see a knee specialist at the hospital and the words “possible torn meniscus” and “MRI” were muttered. I was happy when he suggested a course of physiotherapy to see if this improved things. I went for physio for twice a week for three weeks. I tried to run on the knee as well and I was really happy that, although I could feel some pain, it wasn’t half as bad as it had been. The doctor agreed to carry on with more physiotherapy, as it seemed to be helping a lot.

I have been frustrated while I have been out of action. I haven’t be able to go running, play sport or go cycling. I am really excited to report that when I went running last weekend, I had virtually no pain or aching feelings in my knee immediately or in the days afterwards. The physio also said this week that it was the first time that he wasn’t able to feel fluid in my knee. I am so happy that I will be able to get back outside and do some running training. I will feel like a dog that has been let of its lead for a few weeks at least before I start complaining that I don’t like running and I don’t want to do it anymore. But this means no more hospital or physio appointments.

My other half was in hospital at the start of May for an operation. It was not an emergency and was planned, so it wasn’t a big deal or anything that was risky. However, it turned out that both of us needed treatment in the end…

I arrived to pick him up and take him home. We had to wait for a while until the doctor came in to see if he was ok and to confirm that he was ok to go home. It was a hot day but in the morning when I left for work it was raining and chilly so I wore my winter coat into work. By the time I got to the hospital, I was so warm that I undid the back of my blouse to try and cool myself down.

Shortly after, the doctor came in to talk about the operation and ask my other half how he was feeling and if he was in any pain and so on. It was then that I was starting to feel faint and I noticed that I was beginning to sweat more and more. I told my boyfriend I wasn’t feeling so well and he told me to sit down on the bed and have a lie down but I felt stupid taking his bed from him when I had only come to visit.

The next thing I remember was I was lying in the bed, wondering why my boyfriend was standing next to the bed and a male nurse was taking my blood pressure. Apparently I fainted and hit my head on the wall but I just remember waking up and feeling a lot better than I did a few moments before.

On the plus side, I did get a free cup of coffee once I had come round and then we were quickly off home.

I am hoping that my knee rehabilitation continues to go in the right direction and I don’t have to go anywhere near a hospital in the near future. I don’t want to have to faint again to get a free cup of coffee.

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Cookbook challenge

16 Jun

Thanks to my vegan diet challenge, my Challenge #25 of cooking every recipe from one cookbook is going well because I chose a vegan cookbook!

Here are the latest recipes I have made:

Almond and Cinnamon Drink

This was basically a smoothie and easy to make. It wasn’t all that special and I didn’t include the star anise in the recipe because I don’t like the flavour of aniseed.

Little Potato Cakes with Yogurt Dip

This was so easy to make and so tasty. I somehow managed to make about 3 times as many as the recipe said it would make and I though that we might be able to freeze some for another day. But nope, we ate them all in one sitting!

Roasted Chickpeas

This was a spicy snack and only took 20 minutes to bake in the oven. It was my idea to take these into work as a alternative to snacking on fruit and nuts in the office. However, they were so moreish that I ate them all soon after they had cooled down in the oven.

Soba Noodle Summer Rolls with Tofu and Coriander

I have only made spring noodles once before and that was on a Vietnamese cooking course that I went on last year. These are called summer rolls and not spring rolls because they are not deep-fried so they are a bit healthier. They were easy to make but a bit fiddly to get all of the ingredients in the wraps and wrap them up neatly. The recipe also suggested making a peanut butter dip made with soya sauce and agave syrup and was a nice accompaniment to the summer rolls.

Asian Noodle Salad

Making good on my promise to make and bring more of my lunches into work with me to save money, I made this Asian Noodle Salad. I didn’t use the specific noodles that the recipe stated. I used the soba noddles that I used for the summer rolls above. Our cupboards are so full of ingredients that I have had to buy to make one dish from this book that I am running out of space to put things. The salad itself was a nice alternative to a salad with lettuce and tomato and didn’t take long at all to make. The peanut butter dressing was ok but it turned a bit solid by the time I was able to pour it over the salad. I would definitely make this again.

Mexican Pepper Salad

Another lunchtime option (and we also had a portion of it with dinner one evening as well) that was very easy to make. Because the weather has been recently good in the last few weeks I was able to eat this outside in the sunshine. I’m not sure why this was a Mexican salad because I always associate Mexican food with spicy, hot food.

Quick Ajvar

This a Serbian roasted red pepper and aubergine relish. It’s really nice and spicy and goes well with toast or just on the side with vegetables. It really was quick to make – the vegetables are roasted and then puréed with oil and seasoning.

Colourful Little Toast Spirals

The quick ajvar was a main component of these. The ajvar is spread onto wholemeal bread that has been squashed flat by a rolling pin. The bread is then rolled up and baked in the oven for 15 minutes. It was a quick and easy snack to make and delicious too.

Sandwich spread

I was slightly nervous about this recipe. The ingredients (vegetable stock, rice cakes, onions and tomato purée) seemed a bit unusual to put together to make anything that would taste nice. However, I made some sandwiches with this spread and grilled vegetables. The mixture also kept well in the fridge so I could have it a few days later on bread or with vegan crackers.

Little Quinoa Balls with Mint Sauce

Like many of the things that I have made from this book, my creation looks nothing like the pictures in the book. In this case, I used multi-coloured quinoa whereas the book used the normal variety. The next problem with this recipe was that it said that the quinoa needed to be made into balls the size of tennis balls – I’m not sure then were the “little” part comes from. When I tried to move the balls around in the pan while frying them, they are started to disintegrate. I decided to make small burger-like patties so that they would definitely be cooked in the middle. It meant that I ended up with about 20 of these quinoa “burgers” which didn’t last for very long!

That’s 34 recipes out of a total of 100 already finished!

Films I have seen recently

13 Jun

I have made a renewed effort to watch as many films as possible lately from my Challenge #8: To watch all the films on iMDB’s Top 250 list. What has helped is that my boyfriend is now onboard with the project so I have someone to watch the films with even though he is not a film buff. Luckily this means that he hasn’t seen the films that I still need to see so I have no guilt for making him sit through films he has already seen.

Here are the films that I have seen recently.

2. Godfather

It says a lot about a film when the least disturbing part of the film is when someone wakes up with a horse’s head in their bed. I actually thought that the Mafia did leave horses’ heads in peoples’ beds but actually that myth has been brought into society’s consciousness from this film. It’s funny how films have the ability to do that. Although the film was long, I was so engrossed in the action that I didn’t realise how long it was.

6. Schindler’s List

Obviously I knew what the theme of this film was before I sat down to watch it and I think I have seen parts of it before but I definitely haven’t watched it all the way through. I wasn’t expecting it to be a fun way to spend a Saturday evening and it wasn’t. But it is an important story to tell and that is why it is high on the list. The best part of the movie was having to watch a young Liam Neeson for three hours.

73. Vertigo

I found this movie a strange watch but strange in a good way. A man hires his former school friend and detective to follow his wife because she keeps disappearing and he doesn’t know where she is going. He doesn’t suspect that she is being unfaithful but that she has some psychological issues and that she might harm herself. The former decective does this and discovers that something isn’t quite right. He is suffering from vertigo after an incident that forced him to retire from the police force. I won’t spoil the ending but the scene where James Stewart’s character has a weird dream was disturbing. I can see why people think that this is Hitchcock’s best film. Incidentally, I miss his cameo in the film so I might have to watch it in the future to see if I can spot him.

74. North by Northwest

I didn’t realise that this was a Hitchcock film but I did manage to spot him in his cameo appearance at the start of the film when he is a man who misses the bus. Cary Grant must have been the George Clooney of his day. But I was troubled by how calm and collected he was when he is kidnapped in a case of apparent mistaken identity. Some of Grant’s lines reminded me of Connery’s Bond: very short and witty one-liners. I was disappointed by the ending. Mini Spoiler Alert! There was a near-impossible situation that I was dying to know what had happened but you never really know how they get out of it.

90. Full Metal Jacket

This is a film about the Vietnamese War. It showed the harsh reality of life in the military and life at war. I can’t put my finger on it but it had a different feel to other war films and wasn’t just scene of people getting blown to pieces (although there was a bit of that too). Probably I found the film particularly interesting because I went to Vietnam last year and learnt lot about a war that I didn’t know a lot about. The film portrayal is always different from the reality. I noticed that this is where the phase “Me love you long time” comes from as one of the Vietnamese prostitutes says it to some of the soldiers in the film.

144. Mr Smith goes to Washington

I am slowly falling in love with old black and white films. Smith is appointed to the Senate and wants make changes that will positively influence the lives of the people he is serving. His desire to make improvements is dislike by his fellow senators, who try to discredit him. This story is as relevant today as it was when it was made. I really enjoyed it.

183. Shutter Island

I have been avoiding this film for a number of years. It turns out that I thought this film was not the Ewan McGregor film with a similar name that was panned by the critics but a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. At about one hour into the film, I realised what the plot twist was and I felt very smug about being able to work it out so quickly. However, it didn’t spoil the film for me because the acting was so good. Personally, I think that this movie should be much higher up the list. I would highly recommend it, if you haven’t already seen it.

244. Beauty and the Beast

This is the 1991 animated version and not the recent remake starring Emma Watson. Being a huge lover of animated films, I have no idea why this one passed me by, especially as this is the only Disney where the male lead character is under a spell and it is the female that needs to save him, rather than the other way round. Funnily enough, I did know most of the songs. We visited Disney in 1991 and 1993 and I remember the songs being on repeat. It’s funny how irrelevant things like that stay with you for 27 years but I can’t remember where I put my keys.

And so, I have now seen 103 film out of 250 or 41% complete (which sounds more impressive!)

 

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My week of vegan eating

10 Jun

Another week has again flown by and my vegan challenge is one week closer to completion.

Here are some of the highlights of my vegan eating this week:

More Supermarket Offerings

This week I tried a soya substitute on the grill that really did look exactly like a marinated chicken breast. I’m pretty sure that someone could pick it off the shelf without realise that it was vegan (apart from the huge Vegan symbol on the packaging!)

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I’ve had hardly any sweet treats in the past 7 weeks but I spotted these in the supermarket this week, so I thought I would try them. They were surprisingly good, although the taste of the cola bottles wasn’t quite like the Haribo ones but I could certainly have these as a substitute and not miss the “real” ones.

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Vegan-ising Recipes

I found a recipe for red lentils burgers but the recipe contained eggs to bind the mixture together. I had read that 4 tbsp of chickpea flour and 4tbsp of water is a substitute for one egg in baking so I replaced the egg and I made the burgers. The mixture made more burgers than I thought and I ended up freezing a few for another day. Here are the burgers before I cooked them:

Eating Out

As it was my turn to choose the restaurant for our Team Lunch this week so I took us back to Stripped Pizza where I went a couple of weeks ago with Araz and Mark. Everyone seemed to like the place, even though I was the only one of us to enjoy a vegan option.

Last weekend we had a Christening to go to because my boyfriend became a godfather. I was a bit worried about the meal to celebrate afterwards but I was delighted to find out it was a buffet. It meant that I was able to enjoy a lot of vegan options. Unfortunately all of the sushi wasn’t vegan and there was some amazing roast beef which was extremely tempting! However there was plenty of options for me and I didn’t go home hungry.

Weight Loss

This week my weight dipped under a certain number (which I can’t reveal as women don’t like to make their weight public) that I have been trying to dip under for about the last 4 years. Although this number isn’t my goal weight, I’ve been surprised by how easily I’ve lost week considering I haven’t been regularly exercising for the last 5 or more weeks due to a knee injury. In the past I have always tried to manage my weight through exercise and largely failed. It just goes to prove that you can’t out-train a bad diet.

Only 5 more weeks to go!

Rubik’s Cube

6 Jun

Number 30 on my #40Before40 list is to complete a Rubik’s Cube. There were a number of reasons why I decided to do this.

  1. I have never properly attempted it before. As kids, my brother and I used to peel the stickers off the cube and rearrange them which ironically means that there is no way you can solve it.
  2. I do not know anyone personally who has completed it before
  3. It could be an interesting party trick
  4. I saw a TV programme where kids manage to do it in a few minutes –  so hard could it be?

The answer is, of course, very hard. These small kids on the TV made it look deciptively easy: just a few twists and turns and they were done. The reality is that it’s not so straight forward.

I learnt that it took Rubik’s himself more than a month to solve it after he had invented it and that the chances of just playing with the cube and being able to solve it are probably lower than you winning the next Euromillions jackpot. I am now thinking that it would have been better to have chosen something else easier to do. But if it’s on the list I have to do it.

When I started the challenge, I didn’t own a Rubik’s cube. It was when we were in Bolivia and I saw them on a market stall that I decided to take the plunge and buy one.

As evidence, I took a photo after I had bought it to show that it is possible to solve.

Here is the evidence that the cube was mixed up. I did it and then my boyfriend mixed it as well so that there was no way that I could remember how I had mixed it up myself.

What I didn’t realise is that there is a set of specific instructions that you need to do in order to solve the puzzle and the solution of the puzzle is based on algorithms.

The first thing that you need to do is to solve the white cross on the top of the cube. I didn’t realise that the middle square of the cube doesn’t move so if you try to solve the white cross on the side where a green square is in the middle, you will be doomed to fail.

Solving the cross was relatively easy and the thought crossed my mind that I would be finished within ten minutes. I was so wrong.

The next task is to put the white edge pieces in to complete the white face. Again I managed to do this without too much difficulty. This was turning out to be a walk in the park. It was only when I then tried to complete the next stage that I realised that the white corner pieces have to be solved in a particular order. You can’t just put the corners in wherever they will go because the colours on the other two sides have to correspond to the right face of the cube.

I then left this for a few weeks because I was a bit frustrated by the whole thing and it seemed impossible to put the corners in a specific order. I have now finally managed to solve the white cross and put the corners in the correct order.

Then next thing to do is to solve the middle layer. Now I am stuck. It seems that everything that I try to do ends up un-solving the white layer. In this stage you need to use more complex algorithms to solve it. Just twisting and turning won’t help solve anything unless you have the best luck in the world. And if you do have the best luck in the world, why aren’t you in a casino instead of playing with a Rubik’s cube?

So the current status is that the Rubik’s Cube is gathering dust on the coffee table, while I consider my next move, with a Post-It note attached to it saying “If you even thinkabout touching this, I will kill you.” My other half thinks I am joking but I don’t think I have ever been more serious about anything in my life.

6 weeks to go

2 Jun

On Monday I will only have 6 weeks left of my vegan challenge. I thought that this challenge would drag and would be marking off the days one by one but actually it’s not been so bad.

Here is how the last week has been…

Supermarket offerings

I have got a bit lazy with preparing all of my food from scratch and I have tried a few vegan products from the supermarket. Some of them have been great, some I definitely wouldn’t buy again.

I tried a rice drink with matcha powder in and it tastes like someone put grass in a blender and liquidised it. But I had more success with a vegan cheese and a spicy bean burger. I was hoping to make a vegan cheese burger but the cheese didn’t actually melt so it wasn’t the same but was still pretty tasty. If you are wondering the cheese was made out of, it was made out of almond nuts.

Eating Out

My friend, Araz, told me about a new pizza place that serves some vegan options. I was so happy to have lunch with her and Mark this week and enjoy a vegan pizza. The pizza itself was made from wholemeal flour and was topped with tomato sauce and vegetables. I also had some vegan cheese as well. By the time the pizza arrived, I had forgot I had ordered it and thought the pizza had artichokes on it. But actually this was the cheese. I think it was made from cashew nuts. Next time I wouldn’t pay extra for the vegan cheese because it wasn’t all that special but good to try.

I went to see The Nutcracker Reloaded last week with Johanna, who I used to work with about 3 years ago. We had a nice burger at a British- style pub. The sauce on the burger was actually made from soya so it was also vegan-friendly. I guess it makes sense for restaurants to make vegetarian food also vegan because then they kill two birds with one stone (pardon the expression!)

I also ate at Hiltl this week. It’s a completely vegetarian restaurant which has a big buffet and a lot of the items are also vegan. It was the first vegetarian restaurant to be opened in the world. It’s no surprise that it is so successful and is still going today (it first opened in 1898) as the food is really good.

Lunches

I have gone for the convenient option this week and mainly bought my lunches from the supermarket. I totted up how much this cost this week and it would be far easier on the pocket if I made my own. So next week I will be making some nice salads and wraps to take into the office for lunch – especially now that the weather is nice and I can sit outside and enjoy my packed lunch alfresco!